Tommy Emmanuel is a guitar player’s guitar player. Just ask the late Chet Atkins, who christened Emmanuel a C.G.P. (Certified Guitar Player) and named him one of the five most versatile guitar pickers in the world. Known mostly for his whirlwind fingerpicking style – think Roy Clark or early Glen Campbell – the Australian native recently transplanted to Nashville has just released Accomplice One, a record that features eclectic and cool cover songs performed with equally diverse duet partners including Jason Isbell, Amanda Shires, Rodney Crowell, Mark Knopfler and ukelele maestro Jake Shimabukuru.
The entirety of the album is a bit saturated at 16 tracks, but there are certainly some sparkling gems to be enjoyed, including the hope diamond of the record: “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay,” a duet performed with session player and slide guitarist extraordinaire J.D. Simo. The recording session was live and loose and the two guitar slingers were clearly having one heck of a good time as demonstrated in the video. We also discover here that Tommy can sing. And he can sing really well. Do it more often and he might become the next J.J. Cale.
Another really top-notch highlight is the collaboration with Amanda Shires on the Madonna hit, “Borderline.” Here, Shires pulls out her violin and delivers a passionate version of the song. Shires’ vocal turn has a Dolly Parton vibe to it and Tommy wanders in, out, and all around in just the right places at just the right time.
There are a couple of other cool cover songs to digest here including Doc Watson’s “Deep River Blues” with Jason Isbell, the Duke Ellington classic C-Jam blues with David Grisman as well as a somewhat confusing run of “Purple Haze” going fret for fret with Jerry Douglas. All in all, if you are are a fan of eclectic cover songs this album is your jam. If you are a fan of the art and mastery of the guitar, even better.